Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Rhys muses on the tranquil life of a writer.

 RHYS BOWEN: We all know what the writer's life is like, don't we? After a leisurely breakfast I mount the stairs to my office, admire the view then sit and stare out of the window until the muse flutters to my shoulder and I type a few meaningful words before stopping for coffee and a stroll in the garden.

Right?

If anyone believes a writer does not need stamina I suggest you look at the life of the Reds. Last week we celebrated the launch of WILD IRISH ROSE with a Zoom event and then on Saturday a live event at Poisoned Pen, which was also streamed and has had over 2200 views to date! Brilliant.



But also over the weekend Clare and I had to do the edits on the next Molly book, tentatively called ALL THAT IS HIDDEN.  They went off to the editor today AND I completed an interview I had promised

AND

I wrote the five pages of my current work that I have to do in order to finish to my deadline. Only this time they are extremely hard pages to write. When I'm in Royal Spyness mode I skip merrily along, chuckling as my characters say witty and silly things. This is the most harrowing book I have written: It's also set in WWII and involves a woman who loses husband and child and volunteers to. be dropped into enemy-occupied France as a courier. (In actuality the survival rate of a courier was twenty five percent) She has to deliver messages between the resistance and a British radio operator under the nose of the Germans and of course she's going to be betrayed and it's going to get really awful... I'm putting off that part because I know how awful it's going to get. 

But just coming downstairs to unwind after writing some of those intense and harrowing scenes--well, it's not easy. I know it's going to be a really good story and I know I can do it, but just getting through this middle part of the book is emotionally draining.

It's called ISLAND OF LOST BOYS, because... well, one of the characters is a lost boy, but I can't tell you more. Oh, and it involves Australia, after the war, but again I can't tell you more about it.

Can I give you a little feel for it?

okay

Later that week Madeleine was sound asleep in the middle of the night when she was woken with a crash. Bright light shone in her face. Shadowy figures stood over her.

                “Aufwachen! Aufstehen!. Raus mit dir!” screamed a voice as she was dragged to her feet. Men in Nazi uniform grabbed her and dragged her down the hall, shoving her into what seemed to be a cupboard. The light continued to shine in her face. “Name?” a voice barked.

“What is your name?” He repeated in French.

“M—Minette Giron,” Madeleine realized how she had almost given herself away.

“Do you speak German?”

“No, Monsieur.”

“What about English?”

“No, Monsieur, only French.”

“And what are you doing here? Why did you come to this town?”

“My husband was killed. I was afraid to be in Paris alone,” she said. “I used to have a relative here so I know this place. It seemed safe. I thought I could get a job here.”

“As what?”

“I used to work in a bookshop, but now I deliver shoes for the shoe-mender.”

“And sometimes you deliver other things too?”

“Yes, monsieur. Sometimes I deliver flowers,  or even pastries a couple of times.”

“You know what I mean. I mean messages. From the enemy.”

“No, monsieur. Not true. I am a simple woman. I just want to be left alone, that’s all.”

“ We will search your room and if we find anything, it will be very bad for you. But I can make it easy on you, if you just tell us what we want to know…”

“I have nothing to tell, monsieur. On my honor, I have nothing…”

“Enough,” said one of the men in English now. He took off the German cap. “Well done, Minette. You handled it well. But I presume you realized we were only acting.”

“Not at first. I wasn’t fully awake. But then I did realize… That didn’t make it any less frightening.”

“No. So stay alert. Practice bracing yourself mentally. What will you say if this happens? Think of ways to wriggle out of it. Practice saying them, over and over. Because the next time it will be real.”

Still shaking, Madeleine went back to bed.


And this is one of the easier scenes. Why did I ever think this story was a good idea?

And in the coming week I have several other Zoom interviews/talks all of which take effort. Wine is needed, I think. 

What do you do to unwind when you've been caught up in something so emotionally intense?


54 comments:

  1. I just received my copy of Wild Irish Rose and cannot wait to read! I love Royal Spyness series as well! I listen to those. Keep writing the books that bring such pleasure to all of us, your readers!

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  2. What a heart-rending scene . . . “Island of Lost Boys” is going to be an amazing book, a story that needs to be told. I am sure we are all looking forward to reading it, Rhys.

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  3. RHYS: Yikes, and that was only a practice scenario for Madeleine! I can see why writing those betrayal scenes would be harrowing for you.

    Have you read any books by Ted Allbeury? He was a British author who wrote espionage fiction from the 1970-1990s. Allbeury was an intelligence officer in the British SOE during WWII so the details in his books sounded authentic. He used mostly male operatives as lead characters but there were a couple of books where he had female undercover operatives doing missions in France and Germany. Pretty nasty betrayal scenes there, too.

    And kudos to you (and Clare) for your busy schedule for Wild Irish Rose, and for your multitasking on multiple works-in-progress! I had to work and write reports on 3-8 different projects at the same time, so I know that it's very hard to switch from one WIP to another.

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    1. Thank you! The editing was less stressful than teaching fractions. I teach music and math to 1-6th graders during the week. :)

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    2. I have read Alibury’s books. They were so brave. I want to show my heroine as an ordinary woman. What might she have felt

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  4. That IS intense! Poor Madeline.

    I always end my writing morning, intense or otherwise, with an hour's walk. It's a great way to clear the brain and reset for the rest of the day. But wine is good, too!

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  5. Rhys, you have more energy than almost anyone I know! Congrats on the new Molly, and the newer Molly, and what's going to be an amazing standalone!

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  6. It does sound like a lot, Rhys. Stay perky!

    Coincidentally, we just watched A Call to Spy the other night, the story of Virginia Hall. She was an American who worked as a spy in WWII on behalf of the British, and she eventually became the first woman operative in the CIA. With a wooden leg. So much bravery in that era.

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  7. Congratulations with all your releases!

    I remember Antonia Fraser describing her 48 hours of writing the execution scene about Mary, Queen of Scots. She paced, she cried, she couldn't eat or sleep. Awful.

    I always schedule an emotional scene for morning writing, then spend the afternoon hard at work outside.

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    1. Margaret, that sounds like a perfect way to approach it. If I am reading a particularly disturbing story, I'll read it early in the day, then I'll choose a romance of comedy to read before bed!

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    2. I do all my writing in the morning. The afternoon is for the annoying secretarial stuff!

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  8. Rhys, you are amazing. A "real" job would surely take up less of your time but be far less satisfying, dontcha think?

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    1. I was thinking of becoming a brain surgeon! But how is it possible not to write?

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    2. Rhys, you made me snort my coffee!

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  9. Rhys, I watched the Poisoned Pen event this weekend and it was terrific! I think Clare is such a natural! Does it make it easier to prepare when you know she will be with you?

    I will read your new book when it comes out and I will tremble and sweat in the difficult spots. I'll be terrified for your character, and I'll cry during the sad parts. Then, I'll open one of my favorite romances or cozy mysteries and regroup. If I had to compose scenes like that, I wonder how far I could make myself go. I admire you for tackling this difficult piece of history.

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    1. It was lovely to have Clare with me and I think fun for the audience as we made them laugh!

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    2. I tried to watch but the sound was wonky. I'll go back see if it's better on the recorded version! I wanted to see you both.

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    3. The sound fixes at about 3 minutes in! SO just fast forward a bit...

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  10. BTW, Blogger wouldn't let me post the first comment I wrote. He's getting very persnickety these days!

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    1. I fight a battle every day. I have to keep signing in

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  11. You are so amazing, I cannot begin to tell you. You are my complete inspiration! how do I unwind? Such a good question… So many times I look up from working and it is dark! Which is so shocking. So I try to force myself to get up during the day and just go outside for a minute. Or watch the birds. Just to give my brain a rest. But when things are really going well in writing, I don’t want to stop.
    Cannot wait to read your new masterpiece!

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    1. I write in the mornings but have sometimes thought it must be time for a cup of coffee, only to see it’s 2 o’clock!

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  12. Whoa, that is certainly intense, Rhys. I tend to avoid books about spies and wars, cold or hot. But now I am intrigued with your WIP.

    Between the war in Ukraine and the pandemic everywhere, I often find the need to decompress. So I dive into a book of course. I only read in my bedroom and only alone. I cannot concentrate if there is any distraction. (Having both dogs curled up with me doesn't count as distraction.)

    I just finished THE VERIFIERS by Jane Pek, a fun and interesting book. The only thing wrong is that it seems to be her only one!

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    1. I can’t read anything intense right now, Ann. I’ve just reread an Agatha Christie ( and found flaws in the plot!)

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  13. Rhys, you are amazing! Congrats to you and Clare on the new Molly and the newest Molly. I see the new Georgie is progressing nicely, so there's that to look forward to! And the newest stand-alone? Courage, Rhys, you can do this! And we'll be there to read Madeleine's story when it's out in the world.

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    1. Thank you, Flora. The new Georgie is already with my editor… and shows up on the bestseller list with no cover yet!

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  14. Well that got my heart racing, Rhys. Very intense. I try to find light music to unwind after reading something very intense or a scene in a different book that much lighter.

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    1. Yes, I must try that. Or the sleep stories on the Calm app.

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  15. RHYS, great scene.

    What do I do to unwind? I read happy books like Alexander McCall Smith's novels or I stand up and do some stretching exercises. Have a nice cup of tea. Watch a funny movie on my computer.

    Look forward to reading your books.

    Diana

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  16. Rhys congratulations to both you and Clare on the new Molly! Even though it is draining to write - I can't wait for The Island of lost Boys! It sounds so suspenseful from what you have posted here.
    I only wish the muse would just flit in here and alight on my shoulder!

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  17. Rhys, that does sound very intense, and VERY interesting!

    When I'm writing something painful, I like to switch off by watching something funny. I remember writing a scene in OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY where I was actually weeping, it hit my own painful memories so hard. That evening, I put on A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and roared with laughter. It's a good way to resettle the mind.

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    1. We are watching old British comedies on Britbox in the evening. At least I go to bed laughing!

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    2. When I need an instant shot of laughter, I watch this old clip from one of the British talent shows of a Greek father and son dancing duo. They did a hilarious take-off of Riverdance and Michael Flatley. Available for your amusement on youtube, natch.

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    3. JULIA,

      Yes! I like to switch off by watching something funny too.

      Diana

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  18. It’s so nice that everyone in the world EXCEPT ME understands how to “stream” things.

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    1. Yes, as Flora said below - Get a smart TV and sign up for the services you are interested in. You can sign up on your computer for the streaming services you are interested in (Netflix, Amazon, Acorn, Britbox, Hulu, etc) - set your passwords for each streaming service on your computer, then type those passwords when it asks for them on your TV (just the first time you sign in). Or just watch shows on your computer or other device.

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  19. Rick, a 'smart tv' already set up for streaming, then an internet connection of some kind and you're good to go. I've added TUBI and Britbox to my choices all by myself :-) TUBI is free but you have to put up with a few commercial interruptions (just like old-time tv). Britbox is subscription only, but very reasonable. Netflix came free with my internet connection (a hotspot via my phone service), but I rarely watch anything on it. There's also Kanopy, which is free through your library--just movies--so many per month but the choices are interesting.

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  20. Rhys, The Island of Lost Boys is going to be terrific, and I have no doubt you'll get through the tough parts. I love that you're challenging yourself to write these emotionally difficult books.

    I remember when I was writing Dreaming of the Bones I had to go stay in a hotel to work my way through the most difficult parts.

    I'm not reading much these days as I'm too involved in my own book--a good thing!--and I don't want to watch anything with much of a plot on TV. My relaxation for the moment is watching The Great Pottery Throwdown on HBO. So fun. And always, a hot bath before bed, but we had no hot water for six days last week which really put a spanner in my routine!

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  21. Oh, Rhys, stunning. You'll make it through the tough parts. While I read, I couldn't help but think of current events in the Ukraine. You know there must be an active resistance there. History repeats itself.

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  22. I unwind with a good book. But I tend to stick with lighter stuff if I'm really stressed in real life and need to unwind. I definitely feel your pain.

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  23. Whoa. How can anyone survive a life filled with such tension? Not me! I turn to books and light fare on TV for stress relief. Your book sounds amazing, Rhys.

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  24. Wow, Rhys! I can't wait to read it!

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  25. That snippet was impressively scary! Rhys, I really enjoyed the PP interview with you and Clare! So delightful and informative. I unwind like most everyone else with something more lighthearted to read or watch, including lots of Brit coms. And of course wine always helps!

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  26. I am always amazed that you hardworking authors actually sleep sometimes. All the authors I know and love, including all the Reds, are all super busy.

    I loved the snippet from the new book and can't wait to read it.

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  27. Rhys, you're the only person I know who makes me feel like a slacker. LOL! Bravo on the new book, it will be brilliant and on the release of Wild Irish Rose, which is fantastic!

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  28. Hi Rhys... I'm sure your research ship has already sailed, but this popped up on the Los Angeles Public Library blog today, and I thought of your current project: https://lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/women-who-risked-everything-female-spies-world-war-two

    Looking forward to IOLB...

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